All’s well that’s Bakewell

Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – Almond and raspberry has long been one of my favourite flavour combinations – so much so that it was one of the layers of our wedding cake more than 10 years ago. But it was a few years after that when I discovered my new preferred way to enjoy it: Bakewell tart.

I tried it on my first trip to London, in Borough Market, the kind of bustling food emporium we can all only dream of right now. Along with true British scones, Battenberg cake, good tea and rose and violet creams from Fortnum & Mason, Bakewell tart now sits among my favourite things of English origin – after Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.

In fact, seeing a recipe in The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook, a recent release, is what finally inspired me to make Bakewell tart at home. The dish itself isn’t overly complicated – a buttery crust you make with your hands, topped with jam and a frangipane (almond) filling that comes together in minutes with a hand or stand mixer. The frangipane stars almond meal or flour, which got me thinking. With readers often asking for gluten-free recipes, and lately, ideas on what to make with almond meal, could I double down on the nuts by incorporating it in the crust? Answer: Yes, and with stunning results.

I cribbed a gluten-free crust recipe from cookbook author Aran Goyoaga. Her crust uses almond meal, but also a gluten-free flour blend. That appealed to me, because we’ve heard from plenty of readers who have had problems finding regular flour, some of whom have snagged gluten-free blends as a last resort without knowing what to do with them. Well, here’s your answer! For those of you who aren’t avoiding gluten, know that I tested it with regular all-purpose, and the recipe works just fine. However, I slightly preferred the gluten-free version, which I thought baked up a bit drier and more tender.

Using store-bought jam on top of the crust is really handy. Traditionally, Bakewell tart calls for raspberry or strawberry, but you can use whatever flavour you have in your refrigerator. The nuts on top are also easily varied.

Bakewell Tart Bars. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

The biggest departure I made was to play it a bit fast and loose with the term “tart.” Especially now, I didn’t want to assume that everyone has a tart pan with a removable bottom. I moved the whole operation to a more standard nine-inch square pan. (If you do prefer a tart pan, use a nine-inch round one.) I loved the long, elegant bars I was able to cut. All the same charm with a little less fuss? That’s something else I learned about in England, too.

BAKEWELL TART BARS

Active: One hour

Total: One hour 35 minutes

12 to 16 servings

These elegant bars replicate the classic English Bakewell tart experience in a slightly more accessible format that doesn’t require a tart pan. A buttery crust forms the basis of this dessert, topped by layers of jam and frangipane. Since the frangipane calls for almond meal, we thought we’d use it in the crust, as well, to make a gluten-free treat. You may substitute regular all-purpose flour for the gluten-free blend, if desired. Bakewell tart is traditionally made with raspberry or strawberry jam, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Apricot, blueberry and cherry would all be quite nice. Feel free to leave off the sliced almonds, or swap in your choice of other nut.

MAKE AHEAD: The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for five days or frozen for several months.

INGREDIENTS

For the crust

160 grammes all-purpose gluten-free flour blend

100 grammes almond meal/flour

110 grammes granulated sugar

One teaspoon fine sea salt

10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

One tablespoon cold milk

For the filling

Eight tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

110 grammes granulated sugar

Half a teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch fine sea salt

Two large eggs, at room temperature

140 grammes almond meal/flour

Three-quarters cup raspberry jam or strawberry jam

Three tablespoons sliced almonds (optional)

STEPS

Make the crust

Press two long pieces of aluminum foil into a nine-inch square pan perpendicular to each other to create a sling, leaving several inches of overhang so you can use it to pull the bars out of the pan later. Generously grease the foil with cooking oil spray. (This will help release the bars after they are baked in case any jam bubbles out.)

Whisk together the gluten-free flour, almond meal, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Work the cold, diced butter into the flour mixture between your fingers until the mixture has the consistency of sand. Add the milk and mix with a fork until a wet, crumbly dough is formed. Press the crust mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, half to three-quarters inch high. Transfer the pan to the freezer for 30 minutes to chill.

While the pan is in the freezer, preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position.

Line the chilled crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is just starting to dry (it will still look fairly pale). Remove from the oven, and remove the weights and parchment. Return to the oven and continue baking until the crust develops a light golden hue in a few spots, eight to 10 minutes. (It will still be on the pale side.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack.

Make the filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer and a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, almond extract (if using) and salt on medium speed until fluffy and lighter in colour, two to four minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again, reduce the speed to medium-low and add the almond meal, beating until just combined.

Spread the jam evenly in the warm tart crust. Drop the almond filling mixture in small scoops over the jam, then spread carefully and evenly over the jam. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top, if using. Bake the tart (still at 350 degrees) until the filling is puffed and browned and the centre springs back when lightly pressed, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the slab using the foil sling and cut into 12 to 16 bars.

NUTRITION (based on 16 servings)

Calories: 320; Total Fat: 21g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Cholesterol: 57mg; Sodium: 145mg; Carbohydrates: 30g; Dietary Fibre: 2g; Sugars: 19g; Protein: 4g.